August 28, 2003 18:51
Another peculiar scene with the North Korean cheerleaders unfolded Thursday as they noticed, while riding back from an archery competition, welcome banners with the image of their leader Kim Jong-il in conditions they didn't like.
The women, after demanding that their buses stop, protested in anger and shed tears before taking four banners down and carrying them away.
The group of 150 cheerleaders, here as part of the North Korean delegation to the Universiade games in Daegu, first saw the banners at about 1:40 p.m., as the women were returning from an archery competition.
One banner had a picture of Kim shaking hands with former South Korean President Kim Dae-jung at one end and a picture of the reunification flag at the other. In between was a message welcoming the North Korean athletes.
The women, who were in six separate buses, demanded that the vehicles stop. According to one bus driver, some even stepped on his right foot while trying to apply the brake themselves.
Then about 30-40 of them ran the 300-500 m back to where the banners were. Protesting, they pointed out apparent horrors such as that a seal was stamped on Kim Jong-il's image, that the banners were hanging too low, that they were beside a scarecrow and that they had been left to the mercy of the rain and wind.
Several of the women, helping each other, managed to climb up a two-meter tree and pull down the four banners. They rolled them up, making sure to keep the images still visible, and carried them reverently back to the bus, while weeping out loud. About 10 of them also wrested a camera away from a South Korean reporter who was on the scene.
A South Korean police officer who saw the tail end of the spectacle said, "The North Korean supporters were wailing loudly as they got on the bus, like women who had just lost their husbands. People who were at the scene were saying that it was beyond their comprehension, and some even said it gave them the chills."
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